More than 10 boxes, weighing over 100 pounds and carrying everything from breakfast bars, coffee, air fresheners, hand sanitizers, Chapstick, trail mix, Slim Jims and home-baked goods, are on their way to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, thanks to the Washington University Military Care Package group.
With the November mailing, the group reached another milestone.
Since 2004, Washington University staff, students, faculty and administrators have donated, packaged and shipped at a cost of some $17,000 more than eight tons of supplies to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Spearheaded by Jill Edwards, project manager of university accreditation programs, this grassroots effort started with Edwards helping her sister prepare home-baked goods to send to troops in Iraq.
She brought the care package idea to her office in Brookings Hall and before long she had donations coming in from throughout the building and then from throughout the campus.
Today, there are eight donation drop-off locations, including ones at the Medical, West and North campuses. Shipments are mailed from the WUSTL Post Office approximately six times a year.
Edwards at first worked with Human Resources to identify staff members who had been deployed and sent the care packages to them at their overseas bases.
Then she heard of students and family members of WUSTL employees who had been deployed and began sending packages to their bases as well.
Most on the receiving end, however, have no connection to WUSTL, but they appreciate the much-needed supplies and taste of home.
Edwards has received numerous emails and thank you notes that she shares with the care package group.
Some emails have included pictures showing troops opening the boxes and doling out the supplies.
One such email she received came from U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Lovett, who at the time was the chaplain at a base in Iraq.
“I wish I had the ability to convey just how special these packages are to the troops,” he emailed Edwards. “It means so much that someone took their personal time to stop what they were doing to put together the package and then mail it. It really isn’t so much about what is in the package as it is about the support and love, which comes from those who send these things.
“It means the world to the deployed members knowing that folks back home have not forgotten about us. Your thoughtfulness will be long remembered.”
Edwards is quick to give credit to the WUSTL community members who have been supporting this project for nearly a decade.
“I am continually amazed and touched by the ongoing support for this project. It is a group effort but everyone involved has a personal interest,” Edwards said.
“Many times the soldiers will let us know that they need specific items. The WU group has always come through with the requests. Our main goal is to let the troops know that they are not forgotten and that it is our honor to support them.”